In this article, we’ll give you some tips on finding the best snowmobile for your needs. This will help you get the most out of your purchase while avoiding some of the common pitfalls people make when shopping for a motor sled.
Types of Snowmobiles
First, let’s look at the various types of snowmobiles on the market. Each serves a different purpose, which will, of course, be a major determining factor as you shop.
Trail snowmobiles are among the most versatile. They tend to be lighter, easier to control, and less aggressive, which makes them some of the best beginner snowmobiles.
The downside of trail snowmobiles is that frequent riders usually outgrow them pretty quickly, particularly if they’re looking for sporty riding experience.
Sport Trail Snowmobiles
When riders graduate from trail snowmobiles, they’ll often jump up to a sport trail motor sled. These are a step towards the more aggressive, sporty side with enhanced acceleration and suspension. Horsepower will still be somewhat limited to around 80 but this is still more than enough for many intermediate riders.
Thankfully, sport trail snowmobiles also retain some of the lightweight characteristics of the best beginner snowmobiles.
Within the performance tier, you’ll find some of the top snowmobiles for aggressive sports. They offer smooth suspension and extensive power, much like a performance automobile.
Experienced riders looking for excitement typically spring for these performance snowmobiles. Experience is important since the power and aggressive handling of a performance snowmobile are often too much for beginners to handle.
Touring snowmobiles are also of the premium variety but have a very different intended purpose. These are the Cadillacs of snowmobiles, prioritizing comfort, and ride quality over aggression.
Those who ride for hours on end will typically spring for a touring snowmobile.
One thing to note about touring snowmobiles is that they tend to be bulkier. You won’t be turning on a dime or otherwise maneuvering with as much ease as you’d find on a sport trail vehicle.
While one might consider the aforementioned types of snowmobiles as being ideal for recreational purposes, utility motor sleds are all business. They’re the heavy-duty pickup trucks of snowmobiles, complete with solid towing capabilities, more robust frames, and considerable power.
You’ll also typically find the best wide-track snowmobiles in this segment. Wider tracks allow for an improved grip on the snow and improved acceleration in powder snow.
Unless you have a specific need for a utility snowmobile (i.e. you frequently haul things), one of the other types will likely be more suitable. Many of the most reliable snowmobiles fall into the utility category.
Best Snowmobile Brands
Next, let’s take a look at the best snowmobile brands out there. Naturally, most riders have their own preferences but the following manufacturers are among the most respected among enthusiasts – and for good reason.
Yamaha snowmobiles are known to be very reliable, with one blogger describing them as “some of the most versatile vehicles in existence.”
Yamaha produces trail, sport, and utility snowmobiles and also offers a couple of youth models. You won’t find any touring motor sleds, however, as that’s just not their specialty.
Arctic Cat is another sporty snowmobile manufacturer. Their bread and butter is undoubtedly in the $13,000+ price range, which places them considerably above your typical sub-$10,000 Yamaha.
As such, Arctic Cat is generally considered to be an enthusiast’s brand.
While most people know Arctic Cat for its sporty snowmobiles, the company also produces touring vehicles.
Polaris is another premium sport snowmobile manufacturer, with most models exceeding $15,000 MSRP. For the money, you’ll get a very reliable and aggressive snowmobile capable of traversing mountain trails with ease.
Ski-Doo is a ubiquitous snowmobile manufacturer, with their name often being used to colloquially refer to all motor sleds.
In terms of price, Ski-Doo is comparable to Yamaha, with many popular models priced under $10,000. Ski-Doo produces both sport trail and touring vehicles.
How to Choose the Best Snowmobile for Your Needs
At this point, you know about the various types of snowmobiles along with the most popular brands on the market. Next, let’s tie everything together with some tips for choosing from the various options. As you shop for a snowmobile, don't forget to find the best helmet for your needs as well! Check out this article for a rundown of the most popular choices.
Set Your Budget, Including Insurance
If you’re looking to purchase your first snowmobile brand new, $10,000 is a good rough estimate on budget. As mentioned in the previous section, two of the best snowmobile brands (Yamaha and Ski-Doo) have units in this price segment.
A decent used snowmobile will generally be priced in the $2,000 to $8,000 range.
Don’t forget to budget for insurance as well, though. Surex can help you find the best quote on snowmobile insurance. Learn more here.
By shopping for your snowmobile and insurance at the same time, you’ll get a more accurate picture of how your purchase will affect your bottom line month-to-month.
Consider Your Needs Very Carefully
There’s no point buying a sport trail snowmobile if what you really need is a utility motor sled that can haul logs.
This is why your sled’s intended purpose is just as important as its price. In fact, you’ll save more in the long run by buying the best snowmobile for your needs as it will serve you well for years to come.
Thankfully, this isn’t difficult. Snowmobile manufacturers design sleds that fit into one of several categories (see the “Types of Snowmobiles” section above).
Read Reviews Online
There is a massive snowmobile enthusiast community online. Sites like Snowmobile Forum, Hardcore Sledder, and DOOTalk host extensive discussions about snowmobiles. If you’re a complete beginner, you’d be wise to join the conversation and see what brands and models enthusiasts are holding in high regard.
Conversely, you should also pay attention to the snowmobiles enthusiasts hate as there’s likely a good reason for it.
Know Your Engine Strokes
Snowmobile engines come in two-stroke or four-stroke variants. The difference lies in the piston’s movement during an engine cycle.
Which is better? There’s not really an objective answer. In fact, enthusiasts regularly argue about this. Two-stroke engines are generally more powerful and lightweight. However, many snowmobile manufacturers are switching to heavier four-stroke engines to keep up with efficiency regulations (read more here).
If you’re shopping for an older, used model, you’ll definitely want to mind its engine stroke, though.
Inspections Are Key
If you’re buying a used snowmobile, you’d be wise to have it inspected – especially if you’re a novice buyer. Depending on where you live, finding a mechanic that can inspect the sled for you may be tricker than, say, finding an auto mechanic.
However, the time you spend locating an expert will be well worth it.
Here are some questions you should ask when purchasing a used snowmobile:
Has it been in any wrecks?
How long have you owned it?
In the time that you owned it, what maintenance did you perform?
Does it have the original engine or has it been rebuilt?
What type of oil do you use in the engine?
Are you the first owner? If not, how many people owned it prior?
Do you have proof of ownership?
Buy the Seller
Whether you’re buying new or used, you should have confidence in the seller. On the new end, buy from a licensed dealer. If you go the used route, consider buying from a reputable forum member rather than finding someone with little to no history on a site like Kijiji.
We hope this article has been useful in helping you identify the best snowmobile for your needs. Visit our blog for more vehicular and insurance-related tips. If you’re currently shopping for snowmobile insurance, check out this page to learn more about how Surex finds you the best rates.